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Living & property

A tavern in an exceptional state

Over the last 17 years, Pierluigi Olgiati has put a lot of work and passion into his tavern, Grotto Morchino. During the stormy night of 28 June, things, literally, went downhill. The responsible claims inspector did his best to save the over-300-year-old restaurant and to restore its gem.

7 November 2017, text: Isabella Awad, photos: Till Forrer, video: Focus Format

When he stood in front of his tavern on the morning of 29 June, Pierluigi Olgiati felt as if he had lost a close relative. The building, the terrace and the grounds all lay buried beneath tonnes of trees, which the storm had torn down overnight. He knew that it had been stormy and was expecting a few branches to have been ripped off on his property. “But the extent of the destruction was a shock,” he admits.

Terrace completely destroyed

“At first I was at a loss, but then I called Helvetia,” Olgiati remembers. Claims expert Maurizio Spagnol can still recall the situation too: “He had lost it completely. Before we could talk about the damage, he needed moral support.” To identify the extent of the damage, it was first necessary to clear the site, particularly the stairs leading to the building. Over several days, workers sawed up the four giant trees that the storm had torn down from the slope. The terrace – the tavern’s gem – had been completely destroyed. The impact of the trees had also destroyed part of the roof.

Continuing a tradition

Grotto Morchino in Lugano Paradiso is close to Olgiati’s heart. It was constructed at the end of the 18th century. “At the start of the 19th century, my great-great-great-grandparents worked for the owners at the time, and in 1842 the tavern passed into the ownership of our family,” explains the restaurateur from Ticino. His uncle ran the restaurant until the 1970s. Olgiati remembers: “Following the death of my uncle it remained closed for a long time; sometimes I used it privately.” Then Olgiati, who was at the time working in television in Ticino, decided to reopen Grotto Morchino on 1 April 2000 and to run it himself.

Will the restaurant survive?

“I was able to confirm to Pierluigi Olgiati quickly that the damage was insured,” says Spagnol. According to Olgiati, this was a load off his mind. As July is the most lucrative period for the tavern, rapid action was called for. Spagnol suggested erecting a marquee outside the tavern to allow guests to eat outside despite it being a building site. “Two weeks after the disaster we were already welcoming guests again – thanks to Helvetia,” says Olgiati, praising the work of the claims inspector.

Solidarity does good

“The solidarity and comforting words of friends and customers – both in person but also via Facebook – soothed me greatly,” says Olgiati, who is now able to laugh again. He tells of tourists who headed to the terrace and asked in consternation whether it was being renovated. “I am already looking forward to the coming season, when my Grotto Morchino will be in good shape again.” Work on the roof, slope and terrace is progressing. Spagnol is confident: “I think that guests will once again be able to enjoy polenta and boccalino on the new terrace in July 2018.”

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